Dangers Of The Art World

“In today’s world, it is quite difficult to imagine someone walking out of a museum with a frame tucked away under their arm, but on August 21st, 1911, that is exactly how an employee of the Louvre walked out of the museum with the Mona Lisa,” says Salma Shaheem, joint venture partner and head of Middle Eastern Markets at The Fine Art Group. “It took the French authorities two years to obtain the ever so mysterious Mona Lisa, when it was finally unearthed at the home of former Louvre employee, Vincenzo Peruggia. Following his conviction, Mr Peruggia won acclaim in his native Italy, for such a patriotic act.”

Salma Shaheem, joint venture partner and head of Middle Eastern Markets at The Fine Art Group

It’s, unfortunately, not uncommon for masterpieces to be stolen, but while technology may have led to an increase in cybercrime and more sophisticated forgeries, it’s also being turned on the criminals. “Thanks to the advancement of high tech-security, these stories are quite rare in today’s art world. However, looting is still a problem faced by war torn countries, as was the case of approximately 20 per cent of Europe’s art, during World War II.”

For the most part, art crime can be prevented, says Shaheem. “As an art advisor, we ensure that every artwork that is acquired, on behalf of our clients, has been certified for authenticity and a traceable provenance has been established. This is imperative when we are dealing with Middle Eastern Modern works, whereby the country of origin has been subjected to political turmoil.” So what advice can she offer to collectors here in the UAE? “Collectors and patrons of art are responsible for ensuring that the artworks in their custody are safely and securely stored. Avoiding direct sunlight, heat and humidity, especially in the UAE where humidity levels are remarkably high, one must be extra cautious.”